The MAC Tournament semifinals are underway this evening at Quicken Loans Arena, and with Kent State-Akron leading the way, Ohio-Buffalo will be the nightcap around 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3. The Bobcats (25-7, 11-5) moved onto the semis after beating Toledo last night, 65-57. Buffalo (19-9), with its 12-4 record in conference, had a double bye to automatically advance to Friday's game.
While Kent-Akron might just have a bit more panache in Northeast Ohio, the game between the Bobcats and Bulls should be a good one.
Buffalo had two big winning streaks in conference play that book-ended a three-game skid in mid-February and closed the season winning 11 of its last 14 games. The Bulls have a very experienced team and are efficient on both ends of the floor under coach Reggie Witherspoon, who is in his 10th season at Buffalo.
The Bobcats continue to dazzle with their hardhat approach, led by fourth-year coach John Groce. OU has an elite defense and is second in the country in turnover percentage. Junior D.J. Cooper, one of Groce's best recruits, has a 36.5 assist rate and is top-20 nationally in steal percentage. The 5'11 guard has extremely active hands and a tremendous motor.
Cooper is part of a strong core, which includes forwards Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic, as well as guards Walter Offutt and sophomore Nick Kellogg, who has a 64.8 effective field goal percentage. The team has no seniors who play any significant minutes and should be even better next year, although Groce will be a hot name for open vacancies when the coaching carousel gets rolling in April.
With good wins over Lamar, Marshall, Northern Iowa and UNC-Ashville, to go along with a solid effort in a 59-55 loss to Louisville, this Ohio team is at least NIT-bound, but would be very trendy NCAA Tournament upset pick if the Bobcats are able to make it through the MAC Championship.
We all remember what they were able to do against Georgetown two years ago.